³The Fall of the House of Usher´ (1839)
A striking similitude between the brother and the sister now first arrested my attention. . . .
An unnamed narrator approaches the house of Usher on a ³dull, dark, and soundless day.´ Thishouse²the estate of his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher²is gloomy and mysterious. Thenarrator observes that the house seems to have absorbed an evil and diseased atmosphere fromthe decaying trees and murky ponds around it. He notes that although the house is decaying in places²individual stones are disintegrating, for example²the structure itself is fairly solid.There is only a small crack from the roof to the ground in the front of the building. He has cometo the house because his friend Roderick sent him a letter earnestly requesting his company.Roderick wrote that he was feeling physically and emotionally ill, so the narrator is rushing tohis assistance. The narrator mentions that the Usher family, though an ancient clan, has never flourished. Only one member of the Usher family has survived from generation to generation,thereby forming a direct line of descent without any outside branches. The Usher family has become so identified with its estate that the peasantry confuses the inhabitants with their home.The narrator finds the inside of the house just as spooky as the outside. He makes his waythrough the long passages to the room where Roderick is waiting. He notes that Roderick is paler and less energetic than he once was. Roderick tells the narrator that he suffers from nerves andfear and that his senses are heightened. The narrator also notes that Roderick seems afraid of hisown house. Roderick¶s sister, Madeline, has taken ill with a mysterious sickness²perhapscatalepsy, the loss of control of one¶s limbs²that the doctors cannot reverse. The narrator spends several days trying to cheer up Roderick. He listens to Roderick play the guitar and makeup words for his songs, and he reads him stories, but he cannot lift Roderick¶s spirit. Soon,Roderick posits his theory that the house itself is unhealthy, just as the narrator supposes at the beginning of the story.Madeline soon dies, and Roderick decides to bury her temporarily in the tombs below the house.He wants to keep her in the house because he fears that the doctors might dig up her body for scientific examination, since her disease was so strange to them. The narrator helps Roderick putthe body in the tomb, and he notes that Madeline has rosy cheeks, as some do after death. Thenarrator also realizes suddenly that Roderick and Madeline were twins. Over the next few days,Roderick becomes even more uneasy. One night, the narrator cannot sleep either. Roderick knocks on his door, apparently hysterical. He leads the narrator to the window, from which theysee a bright-looking gas surrounding the house. The narrator tells Roderick that the gas is anatural phenomenon, not altogether uncommon.The narrator decides to read to Roderick in order to pass the night away. He reads ³Mad Trist´ by Sir Launcelot Canning, a medieval romance. As he reads, he hears noises that correspond tothe descriptions in the story. At first, he ignores these sounds as the vagaries of his imagination.Soon, however, they become more distinct and he can no longer ignore them. He also notices